Often the voice of Cassia Eller singing “Blues da Piedade” by Cazuza echoes in my head. Sings for people with very small souls, for those who see the light but do not illuminate their mini-certainties, for those who ignore the full moon and live counting money.
If on street corners what I find more and more is hunger and misery, there is still a Brazil full of money, which seems to live only to count its millions and to date its well-nourished bank accounts, its applications full of gluttonous graphics that can only grow and grow, even though it represents the penury of so many.
It’s Brazil made by people (even the economy minister, look!?) with secret accounts in tax havens. It is the Brazil of the irialimers and their fundraisers and day trade and pipipi Pópópó. It’s a Brazil that tries the impossible: to reduce everything to the numbers on its spreadsheets – the most incredible thing is the amount of people who take it on their backs and still applaud this half-dozen filthy rich.
The spreadsheet-men will look at the world that the Portuguese Afonso Cruz presents in “Vamos Compra um Poeta” (Dublinense) and will be sure that they are facing a utopia. There, everything is meticulously quantified and metered. The most beautiful mornings are the ones when the air smells like dollars. Mammon, the miser, took the place of god. Affect is seen as something that, they say, can even bring some profit, but a profit without quality, since it cannot be measured in numbers or converted into something material.
“Today I ate thirty grams of spinach, a kilo is two euros and thirty, it’s doing the math, we need thirty cents a day to get some vitamin K, says one study. The father exerted twenty grams of force on the kitchen door and said very loud, before leaving in our faces one or two milligrams of saliva, or kisses, if you want to be poetic: growth and prosperity”, begins the narrator, a school-age girl. It is from his perspective that we accompany the family that goes into crisis when it spends more than thirty-two hours without consuming anything, without contributing to “the economy circulating freely, neither for growth nor for prosperity”.
One day, they decide to buy a poet. They go to a store where arists are sold as pets. They note that most poets are bald and bear a beard. Those with glasses are more expensive. They are surprised by something unthinkable for that world: one of the men of the words wears an outfit without brand sponsorship. There, like the years in David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Grace,” or like our football “arenas,” no advertising space is often wasted.
They choose the poet, take the man and place him under the stairs, in a small space of about three meters square. In the house of a legitimate spreadsheet-man, of these Pauloguedians, this poet would never enter, and if he did, he would probably be forgotten and wither away. It’s not even easy for a writer to exist in a place where metaphors, stories and fables are seen as simple lies and artists are labeled “useless”, those who are useless.
But “Let’s Buy a Poet” is a book about the power of poetry and the power that these “lies” have to sharpen perceptions, provoke insights – to use another would-be term – and, yes, transform reality. At the end of the volume, Afonso records his tribute to names such as Szymborska, Bukowski, Herberto Helder, TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Teresa de Ávila. Little by little, the poet bought in a store causes shocks and changes the dynamics of that family. It’s beautiful to see how the utopia of the spreadsheet-men unravels.